The key difference between phrasal verbs and idioms is that phrasal verbs consist of a phrase including a verb and a preposition or an adverb and indicate actions, whereas idiom is an expression that gives metaphoric connotation different from the explicit meaning of the elements of the idiom.
Both phrasal verbs and idioms are used to express ideas more clearly and captivatingly. However, language learners often have trouble mastering phrasal verbs and idioms.
What are Phrasal Verbs?
Phrasal verbs are commonly used in an informal context and spoken language. Phrasal verbs originate as a phrase including a verb and other particles like prepositions and adverbs. Once verbs collocate with a preposition or adverbs, the meaning of the verb completely converts into a different connotation.
There are two types of phrasal verbs. They are separable phrasal verbs and non-separable phrasal verbs. In separable phrasal verbs, the constitution of the phrasal verb is broken into separate terms when it is applied in the sentence structure. For example, in phrasal verbs like call off, pick up, bring up, elements can be added between the verb and the prepositions – pick it up, bring something up, etc. Nevertheless, the constitution of non-separable phrasal verbs cannot be broken into separate terms when it is applied in the sentences (e.g., come across, looking into, get over). The meaning of the phrasal verb is destructed when they are applied as separate units in the sentences.
What are Idioms
Idioms are expressions or phrases that connote figurative explanations different from the literal meaning of the phrases. Idioms are found in all languages. The direct meaning given by the elements of the idiom is distinct from its implicit meaning. Therefore, an idiom has a hidden meaning or a concealed meaning. Fundamentally, only native speakers of the language can understand idioms, whereas non-native speakers of the language can only understand the explicit meaning of the idiom, not the implicit meaning. Idioms are used to flavor the language, and figurative language is used in expressing ideas more clearly and captivatingly. There are numerous idioms in the English language. Some common ones include, taken aback, use your loaf, to weep crocodile tears, and raining cats and dogs.
There are variations among idioms, even among different varieties of English around the world. A native speaker of British English can have trouble understanding American idioms. Similarly, American context and usage of a particular idiom may differ from that of British usage.
What is the Difference Between Phrasal Verbs and Idioms?
The key difference between phrasal verbs and idioms is that phrasal verbs denote actions and are made up of a verb along with a preposition or an adverb, while idioms are expressions made up of a combination of words while presenting a figurative meaning. Although phrasal verbs have a direct, explicit meaning, the meaning of the idioms is implicit. Moreover, phrasal verbs are most commonly used in spoken language and in an informal context, whereas idioms are used in both formal and informal contexts. Another difference between phrasal verbs and idioms is that phrasal verbs can be understood by both native and non-native speakers of the language though idioms can be understood only by native speakers of the language.
The below infographic presents the differences between phrasal verbs and idioms in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Phrasal Verbs vs Idioms
The key difference between phrasal verbs and idioms is that phrasal verbs appear as a verb along with a preposition or an adverb and denote an action, whereas idioms are used as an expression with metaphoric meanings that are different from the conveyed meaning of the elements. In addition, phrasal verbs are used only in informal contexts, although idioms are used in both formal and informal contexts.